The Efficient Weaver

As the holiday season approaches, and the warps I put on my loom get longer and longer I know I try to find the balance between weaving quickly, but at the same time not hurrying. Fortunately for me, Laura Fry's new video The Efficient Weaver covers just this topic. After several decades at the loom, Laura has learned to get the most weaving out of her time. And who doesn't want that? —Christina

Weaving cloth is a labor intensive process. In other words, it takes time. A lot of time. The biggest investment in hand woven cloth is the weaver’s labor.

As someone interested in earning an income for weaving I learned very quickly that once I had spent the coin of my time I could never get it back. While I could earn money to buy more yarn, I could never buy myself more time. Therefore it became clear that I needed to learn my craft very well, become competent with my skills, tools and materials. I needed to learn how to work efficiently.

That doesn’t mean that I could ever afford to "hurry!" Hurrying is an attitude, a mental state wherein you are not in the present moment but constantly thinking you need to be somewhere else, doing something else. Hurrying is when short cuts are taken, steps left out, all in an effort to get what you are doing over and done with.

Hurrying means mistakes are often made, which in the end result in poor results or extra time required to repair the situation.


Happy Warping
Laura knows efficiency is the secret to happy warping.


Efficiency is about working with the least amount of effort—Minimum Input, Maximum Output. Efficiency comes from knowing the process so well that no thinking is required to move on to the next step. Efficiency means knowing your materials and tools intimately so that you can choose appropriately which yarns to use for a project and which processes will best serve the needs of your tools and materials.

Efficiency means reducing the amount of time involved in the steps of the process. Any technique that allows me to thread—hopefully correctly— in less time? That’s a win! There is no comfortable position in which to thread that I’ve found, although I’ve got my process refined to the point where it’s a lot better than when I first started weaving. But reducing the amount of time it takes has been the biggest benefit.

There are a few principles that appear to be true for most people, most of the time. These are my studio "rules":

  • A thread under tension is a thread under control.
  • If you can’t be perfect, be consistent.
  • Never tie a knot where a bow will do.
  • It isn’t finished until it’s wet finished.
  • All else depends.

Weaving is filled with repetitive movements. In order to thread a 1,200 end warp, each thread needs to be pulled through a heddle. That’s 1,200 movements all pretty much the same. A cloth woven at 32 picks per inch means the shuttle passes 32 times for each inch woven. A 10 yard warp is going to have thousands of passes of the shuttle.

Doing the repetitive movements involved in a way that reduces the amount of time and the amount of effort required seems to me to be A Good Thing. Developing a smooth handling of tools therefore reducing the number of motions means it takes less time and less physical effort. But all of that said, rest breaks need to be taken. The rule of thumb with repetitive motions is that if it hurts, stop. Do something else, something that uses different muscles, different motions.

Learning how the body works is also important. The more ergonomically you can make your physical motions, the more work your body will comfortably be able to do. The biggest thing I see is weavers sitting far too low. Posture at the loom should be that elbows clear the breast beam, that hips are higher than knees. Sit up straight on the sitz bones, far enough forward on the bench that legs can move without having circulation cut off. Engage the core muscles and rock slightly at the hips as the shuttle is thrown. Hold the shuttle underhand to keep the shoulders at a more neutral position. This will reduce fatigue and allow the shuttle to easily slide from one selvedge to the other on wider warps.

Handweaving cloth is, by its very definition, “slow.” That doesn’t mean it has to be inefficient.



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